by Mary Murphy
So you’ve already heard that you should stretch before you work out, but did you know that some types of stretching can be more harmful than helpful? The American Council on Exercise warns against static stretching (like reaching down to touch your toes) on cold muscles. Static stretches usually involve prolonged holds in set positions, and done before a workout, they are less effective for flexibility and may even increase your risk for injury. These stretches are better done as cool offs at the end of a workout.
On the other hand, dynamic stretching warms up your body as you move. These exercises are increasing your circulation while you lengthen muscles and improve joint mobility. Try some of these great dynamic stretches before your next workout:
1. Arm swings. Swing your arms back and forth across your body to stretch your chest and shoulders. Spend about 30 seconds to a minute on this stretch.
2. Forward leg swings. Brace your body by holding one arm out to the side, against a wall. Start with both feet directly under the hips and begin swinging one leg forward and backward. Gradually increase the range of motion until the leg swings as high as it will comfortably do. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Backward leg swings. Facing a wall, brace the body with both arms outstretched. Swing one leg from side to side in front of your opposite leg. Gradually increase the range of motion until the leg swings as far as it will comfortably go. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Lunge with rotation. Lunge forward with either foot, keeping your knee over your toes, and rotate your body toward the forward leg. Stand back up and repeat with the other leg.
5. Hand walks. Start by standing up straight with your feet together. Slowly bend forward until your hands reach the ground. Walk your hands forward until you are in a pushup position, then slowly walk your hands back up to your feet.